SENATE AD-HOC COMMITTEE ON HAJJ OPERATIONS DISCOVERS MONUMENTAL CORRUPTION AT NAHCON

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The Senate ad-hoc committee on operations of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) Thursday said that it uncovered what it described as “monumental fraud” in the operations of the commission.

The committee, in a 34 page report submitted to the Senate in plenary, said that the commission holds the wrong perception that monies held in trust for the Hajj pilgrims is not owned by it and by extension the Federal Government of Nigeria and therefore, procurement processes in respect of the said monies are not subject to the provisions of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.

The report entitled “Ad-hoc committee on accommodation, logistics, feeding etc, onshore and offshore of the Nigeria pilgrims” was presented by Chairman of the committee, Senator Adamu Aliero for consideration and approval.

It was however stepped down to enable senators to read and digest the document.

The committee said that it discovered over-bloated onshore and offshore charges by NAHCON levied on intending pilgrim in addition to state welfare boards.

The charges, it said, make the Hajj fare to be on the high side without recourse to the functions of the utilities charges the commission Act.

The alleged “fraudulent charges” the report said, “escalates the cost of the pilgrimage.”

The report said that the commission is under the impression that it is not among the public agencies listed in the Second Schedule of the Utilities and Charges Commission even when the Second Schedule (j) of the Act states “such other public utilities as may be determined from time to time by the Commission.”

It said “for instance, in 2017, Onshore Charges such as administrative fee, Hajj development levy, yellow card and registration forms paid to the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria by the 75,000 Nigerian pilgrims that went through the states pilgrims’ welfare boards amounted to N712, 500.000.

It said that State Pilgrims Welfare Boards charge administrative and other charges which amounted to N1, 474,875,000.

It said that each pilgrim was further charged the sum of$1.33 as tent security deposit.

“This appears to be duplication considering that $322.37 paid by each pilgrim should have been inclusive of tent security,” the report said.

It said, “NAHCON agreed that the $1.33 paid by each pilgrim is a caution deposit to cover for any damage to the tents, but it is not all the $99,750 (N30,423,750) paid by the 75,000 Nigerian pilgrims in 2017 that would be spent on repairing the damaged tents

“There ought to have been details of how such funds are being expended every year, but the Commission could not avail any detail to the committee.”

The report said that the sum of $73.37 paid by 75,000 pilgrim amounted to $5,502,750 was paid to the commission as tent facilities which overlapped with monies already paid.

It said that the commission claimed that the $73.37paid by each pilgrim is for the provision of bedding materials in Muna and Arafat.

The committee said that it could not ascertain the veracity of such payment.

“Evidence of payment and acknowledgement for receipt of the same as well as the identification of recipients was not availed to the committee,” it said.

It said that “every year, the sum of $13.34 is paid by pilgrims to the Ministry of Hajj as deposit.

“In 2017, the sum of $1,000,500 was paid by the 75,000 pilgrims that performed Hajj.

It said that “the annual 1% Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) the Commission charges per pilgrim, $39.99 equivalent to N12, 196.95 in 2017, adds to the burden a Nigerian pilgrim has to pay in order to perform Hajj.”

It said that “there are additional hidden charges not captured in the onshore/offshore components approved by Mr. President through which NAHCON makes colossal amount annually from service providers both in Nigeria and Saudi Arabia.”

It said that “NAHCON often goes on spending spree from the said generated revenue, quite beyond the approval threshold of the accounting officer which is a branch to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation circular SGF/OP/S.3/X1/894 dated 14th January, 2016.

It said that in 2015, the commission rented 90 rooms apartment for its Makkah office at the cost of SR600, 000.00 per annum an amount it noted that “is far above the approved threshold of the accounting officer.

It said that in its 2017 Hajj report, the Commission has sought the approval of Mr. President to expend N1.5 billion to furnish its newly acquired office complex from the proceeds of the rents of pilgrims’ accommodation at Madina.

It said that “the revenue collectors’ receipts used in Madina in 2016 were fraudulently sourced as neither NAHCON’s security register nor sub-treasurer of the federation’s security schedule carried the serial numbers of those receipts while the sum of about N5,000,000 was paid in as against over N1,000,000,000.”

The report said that NAHCON and State Pilgrims Welfare Board sponsor outrageous number of officials to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from the revenue generated from the pilgrims and funds from state governments.

The committee recommended among others that “the monumental fraud associated with the provision of accommodation in Madina, the subletting of bed space and other procured services rendered by the Commission between 2015 and 2018 (inclusive) should be investigated fully by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) with a view to bringing culprits to book.”

The committee also recommended that henceforth, NAHCON should stop renting accommodations beyond the number of days Nigerian pilgrims will spend in Madina while all proceeds realized from renting accommodations in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 should be refunded to pilgrims who under took the Hajj exercise in those years.

Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who presided, asked senators to read the report describing its contents as weighty.

Reading the document, Ekweremadu said, would enable senators to make meaningful contributions when the consideration of the document resumes.

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